Sometimes the stories of films that never got made are more interesting than the ones that actually did. Such is the case with Return of the Apes, a rebooting of the Planet of the Apes franchise that was set to have Oliver Stone direct and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in the lead role. In typical Hollywood fashion, the project fell apart once one executive was promoted and another took over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all look back at what Stone and Schwarzenegger were planning to do.
Allow us to reassure you that, yes, it was totally insane.
Topless Robot has put together a fascinatingly detailed piece about the film’s script and genesis that highlights all the kookiness Stone planned (he thought the original films were dumb and tossed out an off-the-cuff time-travel idea that executives loved) that would have surely alienated hard-core Apes fans.
How kooky was Stone’s idea? Well, here’s a synopsis:
“It has the discovery of cryogenically frozen Vedic apes who hold the secret numeric codes to the Bible that foretold the end of civilizations. It deals with past versus the future. My concept is that there's a code inscribed in the Bible that predicts all historical events. The apes were there at the beginning and figured it all out.”
But wait, it gets crazier!
Stone’s film was going to have all sorts of weird callbacks to other pop-culture creations. Schwarzenegger’s character was set to have two identities –- one as Dr. Robert Plant (“play Stairway to Heaven!”) and another as Will Robinson (danger!). With humanity on the brink of extinction thanks to some Progeria-esque disease that has women giving birth to elderly stillborn babies, Arnold and a female companion must travel back in time to stop this genetic time bomb and save the future – while running into talking apes and characters with names ripped right out of Lord of the Rings. Seriously – there’s an Aragorn in the script, as well as a Nazgul.
While back here in the past, Arnold not only meets these apes, but he drives around a giant steampunk-esque tank, spends time getting a strange blood transfusion, and builds his own version of the Statue of Liberty in a scene that was sure to make Apes fans fling their own poo at the screen.
As mentioned earlier, this version of Apes never made it to the screen -- although we wish it would have – it’s unlikely that it would have been a good Planet of the Apes film, but it sounds so insane that we’d have gladly watched it anyway. Stone and Schwarzenegger bailed, and eventually Tim Burton and Mark Wahlberg brought their own underwhelming reboot to the screen instead. That film looked set to kill the Apes franchise for good, but the series is back now and arguably better than ever.
Swing by Topless Robot and The Planet of the Apes Wikia for even more details about this film that never was.
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